Thriller to land Imperial plot

Unbeaten four-year-old heads Pipe bid to continue family's lucrative stratagem

The first phase of the annual assault on the Cheltenham Festival prize money begins this afternoon in Surrey. Time was when the Imperial Cup, first run in 1907, was easily the most important hurdle prize of the season and no pre-war Champion Hurdle winner came close in ability to Trespasser, hero of the Sandown feature from 1920-22. Nowadays, though, the venerable contest is merely the hors d'oeuvres before the feast.

There is a record £3.56m on Prestbury Park's groaning board next week, which make's this afternoon's prize of just under £40,000 look like a single canape. But, of course, should the winner go on to take any race at the Festival, there is a bonus of £75,000.

One stable has proved something of a masterchef at providing that particular recipe, that of the Pipe family, pere et fils. Martin trained six Imperial Cup winners, of whom Blowing Wind and Olympian claimed the extra cash. David has won the last two renewals with Gaspara and Ashkazar; the former followed up in the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle and the latter beat all bar Crack Away Jack in the same race.

Today the favourite Mr Thriller, near the top of the handicap, and Seven Is My Number, who made the cut with none to spare, represent Pond House. But before the conspiracy theorists leap atop a grassy knoll, what might happen in the future is not the prime concern of any trainer, even the shrewd cookies at Nicholashayne. It is hard enough to win one competitive handicap, let alone two within six days with the same horse (as well the philanthropic sponsors Paddy Power know) and today's first prize is the bird in the hand.

Mr Thriller (3.10), a four-year-old half-brother to Gaspara, holds five Cheltenham entries, the Supreme Novices, Ballymore Properties, Triumph and Fred Winter hurdles as well as the Coral Cup. He comes to today's fray unbeaten in his two runs since joining Pipe after five outings in his native France, with the form of his success at Fontwell last month boosted since by success for the runner-up and third.

"He's done everything right," admitted his trainer. "And although he is high enough in the weights, he does get the four-year-olds' allowance. he looks progressive and he won't have any worries about the hustle and bustle of a big field."

Seven Is My Number has not raced for more than a year. "He's had problems all his life," added Pipe of the seven-year-old, "and has been difficult to train. But he is potentially well-handicapped; how well we'll find out soon. But with both horses, we'll wait to see what happens at Sandown before making any plans for Cheltenham."

The majority of today's runners are older, battle-hardened handicappers with the County Hurdle as their target. Gary Moore, as adept as Pipe at targeting these valuable prizes, is looking for something of a consolation for Numide, who was strongly fancied for last month's abandoned Totesport Trophy and before that had blundered a winning chance at Ascot away at the last.

Though Take The Breeze, another ubiquitous French-bred from the all-conquering Paul Nicholls yard, was further behind that day at Ascot, he has since won a lesser contest well under today's rider Harry Skelton, the only man to have won on him in this country and whose claim partially offsets his mount's rise in the weights. The six-year-old is still on the upgrade and appeals as each-way value.

The day at Sandown opens with another decent prize, this time for young hurdlers bred for their job rather than being recruited from the Flat. Previous winners include smart subsequent chasers like Control Man and, two years ago, Albertas Run, who contests Friday's Gold Cup.

The one who appeals most as an exciting talent, both today and for the future, is Bakbenscher (2.05), progressing steadily through the ranks with four victories, two in bumpers and two in hurdles. The grey Bob Back gelding's most recent success has been franked by two subsequent wins by his runner-up Captain Americo and his trainer Alan King could hardly be in better form.

Bakbenscher's stablemate Voy Por Ustedes heads the 12 entries left in the Ryanair Chase at yesterday's penultimate confirmation stage. The gelding, already a dual Festival winner in the Arkle Trophy and Champion Chase, as short as evens to bring up the treble in the two and a half-mile showpiece. Last year's winner Our Vic, Tidal Bay and Imperial Commander are among his chief rivals.

There is also a hotshot at the head of the market for Thursday's other Grade One contest at Cheltenham, the World Hurdle. French raider Kasbah Bliss will face a maximum of 15 rivals as he bids to go one better than his length second to now-retired Inglis Drever last year.

*Five of the 10 runners in the opening maiden hurdle at Ayr yesterday were disqualified after their riders took the wrong course after bypassing a dolled-off hurdle. The 5-2 favourite Etxalar, ridden by the 5lb claimer Campbell Gillies, passed the post first but he and the four who followed him in lost out in the stewards room. The race went to Graham Lee's mount Seraphin, first home of the only other two finishers.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Native Glen (Sandown 3.10)

NB: Sergeant Harper

(Chepstow 2.25)

Kauto Star out to regain his lost Gold Cup crown

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Extras
indybest
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary teaching roles in Ipswich

£21552 - £31588 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education re...

Science teachers needed in Norwich

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Science teachers requ...

Semi Senior Accountant - Music

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful, Central London bas...

English teachers required in Lowestoft

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualified English tea...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits